Monday, November 14, 2011

Dinner and Drinks: Crockpot Chili

When the weather starts to cool off in the fall, our thoughts usually turn to outdoor projects we try to avoid in the heat of summer. Recently we realized we couldn't put off raking leaves any longer and so, on a cool (~55°F) Saturday we filled bags (and bags and bags) full of leaves. And for good measure, I cleaned the gutters.

Thankfully I had the foresight to chill some beer in the fridge and start some chili in the crockpot before we went outside. There's nothing better than coming inside after a long day of working in the yard to a house that smells like a chili truck exploded. Except maybe knowing the fridge is full of cold beer.

Crockpot Chili

1 lb ground beef
1 large can of red or black beans
6 oz of tomato paste (one of those little cans)
32 oz can of tomato sauce
14 oz can of diced tomatoes
1/2 a large onion (diced)
2 cloves of garlic (minced)
4 tbsp chili powder
2 tsp salt (divided)
1 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp white pepper

If you can get good fresh tomatoes, by all means use them. Donna's parents can them so we get fresh stuff year round. But a crockpot can cover a lot of sins, and canned tomato sauce is one of them.

The trick to good crockpot chili is to hold off on adding the hamburger until you plan to eat. If you've ever put hamburger in a crockpot and let it slow cook, you've undoubtedly noticed that it tastes... wrong. The texture gets all mushy and that's no good.

So, set the hamburger, allspice, black and white pepper, and half the salt aside. Everything else goes into the crockpot on high for one hour. (Remember to drain the excess liquid from the beans. No one wants bean juice in the chili.) Then turn it to low and forget about it. Well, you can stir it once in awhile if you want. Maybe gaze at it longingly while you drink beer. Not that I would do that.

Let it slow cook for at least 6 hours. The longer it cooks the better. When you can't stand to wait any longer, brown the ground beef in a skillet over medium heat. Season with all those spices you held in reserve. Add the ground beef to the crockpot and stir. Then crack a beer and enjoy.

Speaking of beer, on the crisp autumn evening I enjoyed a (okay several) Sam Adams Black Lager. I'm not a huge Sam Adams fan to be honest, but the black lager has a nice balance of maltiness and lightness. It's a beer you can chug a little after a day of toiling in the yard but still has a little bit of heft to it.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Macy's First Orchestra Concert

Macy has recently taken up the violin as part of her school's orchestra program. She recently had her first recital at the Festival Concert Hall on the campus of North Dakota State University.

Fifth graders from all the Moorhead elementary schools participated. Most of the songs were played utilizing the pizzicato technique (they've only been playing for a few weeks).

They had a dress rehearsal just before the performance, and their teacher was confident enough in their abilities to let them conclude the concert with this:

So far, Macy seems to really enjoy playing. She practices five nights a week. It would be pretty cool to have a violin player in the family.